DIY Digital pinball console plays hundreds of games

pinball_console

Pinball machines, while likely considered pretty retro technology by most, are still a fun and engaging way to waste a little time. The problem with pinball machines is that they take up a lot of space, making the hobby of collecting them pretty prohibitive unless you have tons of spare room in your house.

[tbarklay] loves pinball machines but doesn’t have to room for an elaborate collection. Rather than purchase one machine, he opted to build his own pinball table that can be used to play any number of games. He repurposed an old PC to power his table, connecting it to a 24″ LCD panel for the main display board. A custom cabinet was built to contain the large LCD panel as well as the computer. A 19″ LCD screen was mounted on top of the cabinet to serve as the backglass display. A set of arcade buttons were also added to the console to provide realistic paddle control.

While we don’t have a video of his particular table in action, check out this video we found of  a pinball machine that uses the same setup.

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NBA Hangtime pinball display

[Ed Zarick] continues work on his NBA Hangtime pinball machine with the completion of the scoreboard and backglass. You should remember this project as we already covered the layer audio he developed for the system. Now he’s proving to be a protoboard master, using point-to-point techniques to build a pair of two and a half digit LED displays for team scores, as well as a shot clock timer and other status indicators.

The lighting board that controls it all is commanded via the i2c protocol, just like the three audio modules. It uses shift registers along with MOSFETs and [Ed] has taken the time to add pin headers and sockets for board interconnects. As is true with the audio system, one Arduino Mega acts as the master on the i2c bus and you’ll notice in the video after the break that the display works in perfect harmony with the sound effects.

We can’t wait to see what he comes up with for the play field!

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Layering pinball audio using parallel WAV shields

[Ed Zarick] is preparing his pinball project and wants to have authentic sound to go with the game play. The game is modeled after NBA Hangtime and in addition to music he also needs a wide range of sound effects to beef up the experience. To make this all happen at once he developed a set of Arduino WAV shields controlled by an Arduino Mega.

As you can see above, there are three ATmega328 chips which run the Arduino boot loader and each interface with one of the three green WAV shields. That set of chips listens for commands over and i2c protocol, and once they receive instructions they play can play the chosen file without affecting the other shields.

But to have the authentic sounds you first need to acquire the audio samples. [Ed] grabbed a ROM of the original video game and dumped all of the audio samples. From there it was a chore to listen to and catalog the sounds for SD card playback with the pinball version of the game. But it’s well worth the effort as the sound will end up tying the whole experience together.

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Atomic pinball clock

[Mark Gibson] sent us a load of details on his build, a WWVB atomic clock using a pinball machine marquee (PDF). This is the upright portion of an old machine that used electromechanical displays instead of digital electronics. It’s big, noisy, and seeing it running might make you a bit giddy. Luckily he included video that shows it working on both the outside and the inside.

It took a bit of probing to discover the connections for relays that control the display. From there he used optoisolation to drive them with an Arduino. With this hurdle behind him, [Mark] set out to add atomic clock accuracy. He picked up a WWVB module and added it to the mix.

Check out his build log in PDF form linked above. He went out of his way to explain how the original parts work, and the processes he used during prototyping. For more of those juicy details we’ve added a photo gallery and his video after the break.

Didn’t get enough pinball goodness from this project? Check out the this digital gas plasma display pulled and reused from a much more modern pinball machine. Oh, and there’s always Bill Paxton Pinball.

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Mini pinball is all-pixels

You won’t find those familiar steel balls inside this mini-pinball cabinet. That’s because [Luis'] latest creation is a fun way to play virtual pinball. The playing field is a 10″ LCD screen with an accompanying 8″ screen in the marquee. Inside the well-crafted case you’ll find a mini-ITX motherboard running HyperPin, a frontend software suite for LCD-based virtual pinball. He’s also using PinMame for the score board that was often provided by a gas plasma display on newer mechanical machines. There’s video after the break, and take a moment to check out [Luis'] other mini-cabinet builds.

What’s that you say? No substitute for the real thing? That’s exactly what [Ben Heck] thinks too.

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Gas plasma pinball display

[Whoopjohn] decided to build a driver board for a display he pulled from a pinball machine. You’ve probably seen these used to scroll both score and messages using a total of sixteen 15-segment digits. We’d love to get our hands on one, and you might too but where? [Whoopjohn] notes that these were usually installed two-per machine and the driver boards were run close to their maximum ratings. That means that somewhere there’s a collection of broken machines with working displays. If you do plan to make this happen, you should be able to figure out the circuit based on this commented board layout (pdf).

Bill Paxton pinball

No, your eyes do not deceive you, you are looking at a [Bill Paxton] pinball machine. [Ben Heck], commonly known for his portable gaming system modifications has finally finished his pinball machine build. We’ve had our eye on it ever since [Jeri Ellsworth] challenged him to see who got theirs done first. As you can see, he’s done a fantastic job on the machine itself. He has also documented it fantastically, there’s a build log, a gallery, demonstration videos etc.

[thanks Matt]